While we're about a month away from the season of good tidings and the new year, what we have lined up for the next 4 weeks or so are 4 cinematic releases that deal with zombies, the supernatural and the undead. We have been teased with Aliens Vs Predators again in a town where the humans stand in their way and become sacrificial pawns. We have Will Smith in I Am Legend being the last man on Earth fending off strange creatures in the night. We have a group of shoppers stuck in a supermarket when Stephen King unleashes The Mist on them. And I actually enjoyed the latter 2 trailers for having adopted some bars off Clint Mansell's soundtrack for The Fountain (will we see more, since Requiem's was used ever so often).
And the competition amongst them starts with 30 Days of Night, adapted from a graphic novel, which tells of the small town on Barrow in the northernmost part of Alaska having to go through 30 days without sunlight in winter, and those who can't stand the cold and the thought of living without sunlight, have opted to leave. It's pretty much business as usual, until a bunch of vampires decide to crash in and feast. And this is the beginning of one of my gripes about the film, as hokey as how the Superman comics team dreamt up of Doomsday - it just appears, with zero thought about justification and the whys and the hows. Um, so we're to believe that this group of super bloodsuckers led by Danny Huston's Marlow have been idling for centuries somewhere on Earth where the sun doesn't shine, before deciding that they have to respond to that rumble in the stomach.
So once you can believe that, and the thought of it dismissed by a one-liner, it's a pretty gory vampire flick on most accounts. They're infused with 28 Days/Weeks styled speed and utter craving for plasma, and as a team, their moves are very keenly calculated. Thinking it's hip to invent languages, we learn Vampire-speak too, though most of the time their fangs get in the way of their pronunciation, so they sound like they're choking on thick clotted blood. Watching the way they dispatch their sorry victims, even though the camera cuts away just at the point of teeth plunging into jugular veins like how rabid dogs attack, you still feel a frightening chill when the view comes back to jolting bodies having their liquids sucked dry, and those scenes are disturbing, even after you leave the theatre. Those fingernails cum talons too provide our vampires with a facial weapon, and how you wish they use it to silence themselves each time they lapse into their orgasmic shrieks.
Director David Slade of Hard Candy fame knows how to create tension and horror without showing you much, and that happens to be a plus point with its extremely patient build up, and the heightening of suspense. You have to tip your hat at him for crafting a very quiet movie at crucial scenes, so much so that the audience lend their "Ssshhhhs" not to tell fellow audience to keep quiet, but aimed at the characters themselves to remain like little mice lest they get detected. 30 Days of Night is a very grey movie in mood, tone and the weather, with occasional white landscapes littered with splatters of crimson, and with Slade just loving to provide us overhead views of the town run aground by rampaging monsters.
The humans here though behave like typical vampire movie fodder. The bigger the ensemble, the more victims it can provide, not counting anonymous folks seen being victims from afar. Josh Hartnett's Sheriff Eben plays hero as he leads his bewildered town kinsman to survive through this 30 days of mayhem before the sun shines again, while trying to work out his estranged relationship with wife Stella (a very pouty Melissa George from Turistas, and I still say she's a dead ringer for Estella Warren!). As usual, you have a team of misfits feeding off each other's strength in a quest for survival, and a theme such as Sacrifice is never too far away from movies like these.
But what I felt was a let down to its build up, was the unsatisfying ending, which left a bitter aftertaste with its abruptness and inability to resolve anything substantial. It also didn't allow for any sympathy for the victims as you would sometimes find yourself rooting for another kill just to satisfy your blood lust, also because little time is given for you to get to know those characters. As the humans learn that guns do zilch to their targets, there goes all hope, and try as they could to get creative in turning the tables, it boiled down to keeping it simple. Oh, and if you enjoyed the supermarket scene, I'd bet it served as a precursor to The Mist.
30 Days of Night could have been a lot more, but unfortunately left some bits to be desired. If you truly want to enjoy this new age vampire movie, then I suggest leaving any inquisitiveness at the door, as the movie offers no answers nor clues to answer your whys. Perhaps a reading of the graphic novel might help.